By Haylee Thorson
Love it or hate it, you have to admit—Emily in Paris has gotten people talking. While the latest Netflix series has received some less than stellar reviews from critics, it has also been met with considerable praise from audiences around the globe. For those of you who haven’t had a chance to partake in the binging of this show quite yet, let me provide you with a quick rundown. Emily Cooper (played by Lily Collins) is a young, naive American who finds her life turned upside down when she decides to take a marketing job in Paris on a whim. When she arrives, she quickly discovers that her lack of worldly experience and inability to speak French poses a series of obstacles. However, once she creates an Instagram account to document all of her experiences in Paris, her life becomes one grand adventure filled with luxury, romance, and friendship. And sure, most of Emily’s social media strategies wouldn’t earn her tens of thousands of followers in real life and yes, some of her outfits are a bit too kitschy to land her an invitation to Paris Fashion Week, but the girl has got character and so does the show. While I can see how some people might frown upon the clichés and the camp, Emily in Paris doesn’t take itself too seriously and I appreciate that. So, I’m here to provide you with an honest review of Netflix’s latest sensation and let you know if it’s worth the watch and/or renewal.
One reason that Emily in Paris has received a lot of backlash is portraying Paris through rose-tinted glasses. In the show, the city looks like the most magical place on the planet—I mean, it’s clean, it’s well-kept, it’s not crowded! However, for the people who live there, it’s not quite as dreamy as the show makes it out to be. But when confronted about his idealization of the French capital, show creator, Darren Star, argued that a lot of Americans do see Paris this way when they visit for the first time. And honestly, his viewpoint resonated with me. When I got the chance to visit Paris with my mom when I was 13, I was blown away by the city’s beauty. Because I had been dying to go there my entire life, I paid no mind to the city’s shortcomings because I was far too focused on all of the incredible things that it had to offer. Everything just seemed so unbelievably extravagant and it was hard not to idealize it after living in a Tennessee suburb. Because Emily is the show’s main character, we are experiencing Paris from her point of view. As an early twenty-something who had never left the States until she took that marketing job, it’s unsurprising that she too saw the city in such a positive light!
If there’s one thing that viewers can all agree on, it’s that Emily would probably never be considered an influencer by today’s standards. In the show, Emily garners nearly 30 thousand Instagram followers in an incredibly short period without putting in much effort. Although she has a master’s in communication and marketing, she genuinely believed that subpar boomerangs and cheesy hashtags were the best strategies to facilitate social media engagement. While the average person would probably overlook these minor details, it was quite painful for me to watch as a media studies major! If her social media expertise wasn’t integral to the plot of the show, her strategies wouldn’t have mattered at all. But since it was essentially the entire point, they were hard to ignore. However, I’ve tried to see her carefree approach from a different perspective, and here’s what I came up with. Emily’s account was possibly so quick to grow in popularity because people were able to see themselves in her. Here’s this young, American girl who has never been out of the country until now and is completely awestruck by everything that Paris has to offer. She documents life with such amazement and wonder that people can’t help but want to follow along. Her posts might not be the most polished and her captions might not be the most complex, but they’re real and they’re reflective of what she is feeling at that very moment!
Finally, let’s talk about clichés. In the show, viewers are bombarded by dozens of stereotypes about French people that are simply untrue. Whether it’s that they are mean, promiscuous, or snobby, the French are essentially painted as caricature versions of themselves. However, there is also no shortage of clichés when it comes to Americans in the show. In the first episode, Emily is referred to as “la plouc” (or “hick” in English) by her French coworkers because of her loud, midwestern persona. She is also portrayed as an entitled workaholic who salivates at the mere sight of a cheeseburger. And at times, I have to admit that I had a hard time liking Emily’s character. Not only can she be incredibly rude—ahem, the “customer is always right” scene—but she constantly tries to Americanize French culture. I get that the point of her job was to offer an American perspective on French marketing, but I didn’t like how she always insisted her way was better. When you’re an American living in a different country, it’s not your place to try and change the culture.
As an American who has lived in Europe for six years, I was embarrassed by some of Emily’s behavior and had to force myself not to dwell on it too much to enjoy the series. And while I did like the show, for the most part, I agree with a lot of the negative things critics said. While it’s possible to overlook the glamorization of Paris and Emily’s mediocre social media strategy, the constant clichés and the American superiority complex are hard to overlook. So, is Emily in Paris worth the watch? Yes and no. Yes, if you’re looking for a show that’s easy going and doesn’t require a lot of thought. No, if you’re looking for a show that’s complex and has well-written characters. And does it warrant a second season? Well, that’s up to Netflix to decide!
Haylee Thorson is an editorial writer who specializes in beauty, culture, and travel. Follow her on Instagram @hayleethorson.